Saturday, 2 March 2019

Day nineteen - back to the Mainland

Up, breakfasted, and out the door to head down to the ferry.  We dropped bags into bins, grabbed our tickets and waited on the dock.  Visibility into the water below was really good, and there were lots of fish around. But the highlight was a pretty decent 6ft broad-nosed sevengill shark that cruised below us twice.  What a cool thing!  We boarded the ferry and then headed out across the Strait.  The weather had definitely dropped and the swell was pretty light and winds light also.  We had a few sooty shearwaters, a couple of white-capped albatross, and some Foveaux shags waved good-bye, but that was about it.
We pulled in to Bluff, got the van repacked and then headed into Invercargill to an estuary area.  We scanned the abundant waterfowl, looking for anything that stuck out – namely chestnut-breasted shelduck – but could locate anything.  The tide was a long way out, so a huge amount of habitat to search. There were a lot of shoveler, teal, mallard and other things about, so it was nice to spend some time scanning the birds.
We then headed northwards, basically spending a good few hours motoring our way north. We grabbed lunch along the way, eating it in a sunny spot in a small layby, and enjoying the scenery.  About mid-afternoon we called into our first birding spot, an area where we hoped to see yellow-eyed penguin.  We walked a little along the coast, and there standing proudly in front of a bush was an adult yellow-eyed penguin.  It looked like it was in pretty chubby condition, and seemed to be in pre-moult status, so was probably set to spend the next few weeks on shore looking miserable as it changed into its new plumage.  Catastrophic moult of penguins does not look like fun!
We spent some time watching it, and the Otago shags flying past, enjoying the abundant NZ fur seals, and then decided to head further northwards.  We dropped into a site for great looks at both spotted and Otago shags, and had excellent looks at both species, the Otago shag today being new for the trip.  There were a few white-fronted terns about, but not a lot else.  So, after a bit of time watching the shags, it was time to head to the accommodation and check in.  A fabulous dinner at ‘The Last Post’ in Oamaru, and an early night.  Another great day!

Bird of the day– Yellow-eyed penguin x5, Otago shag x3
Leaving Stewart Island

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